Bike Advocates to SFMTA: Time to Fill the Gaps on Lower Market Street

This section of Market Street betwen 8th and 9th still hasn't been painted green or protected with safe-hit posts. Photos by Bryan Goebel.
This section of Market Street betwen 8th and 9th still hasn't been painted green or protected with safe-hit posts. Photos by Bryan Goebel.

Nearly five months after the SFMTA installed the green protected bike lanes on Market Street, which most agree has been a successful trial, bike advocates are urging the agency to finish the job and plug in the gaps from 8th Street to Octavia Boulevard.

“I heard from [SFMTA CEO] Nat Ford Market Street is a top priority. We heard from the Mayor on Bike to Work Day that Market Street is a top priority, but the question is, when is it going to happen?” asked Renee Rivera, the acting executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She noted the Mayor even signed the SFBC’s petition calling for a continuous bikeway from Octavia to the Embarcadero.

The green bike lanes are part of a pilot project implemented a year ago to divert private automobiles off Market Street with mandatory right-turns at 10th and 6th streets. By all accounts, the trials have dramatically improved conditions for transit, pedestrians and bike riders. Data compiled by the Great Streets Project [pdf] show greater volumes of pedestrians and bicyclists.

When asked why the remaining bike lanes on Lower Market haven’t been painted green or protected, Bond Yee, the SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director, voiced concerns that have been raised about bike lanes in general.

“We’ve had some issues with some of the businesses in terms of their deliveries, they were going to separate the lane with these markers, and they don’t have access to the store fronts, so we are trying to work that detail with them,” said Yee. “We’ve also had some issues from some of the seniors, and disabled community, because a lot of them use taxis for access into those areas, and now they can’t pull over to the curb because of the separation, so some of our enforcement folks are getting a little overzealous I think in terms of enforcing strictly that no pulling over into those areas, so we need to work some of those minor issues out too.”

Yee also questioned whether paint was the best marking material to use, complaining that fixed-gear bikes are leaving skid marks in the bike lanes.

“Is water-based green paint the way to go, or are there some better materials that we can use like epoxy, or thermal epoxy, or some blend with aggregates and so forth and some colorized asphalt?” he asked. “But those are not that simple. You can’t just say, ‘Let’s just do it’.”

Those excuses aren’t good enough for Rivera.

“There is really no reason for why we can’t have a date for when this is going to happen,” she said. “Let’s really do this first trial right and have it extend immediately from 8th Street to Octavia. That’s really the trial that we should have done on Bike to Work Day.”

Rivera was also concerned that the “Lane Closed” sign had recently been removed from Market Street at 10th Street. SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said it was taken down because it was damaged. He could not say when it would be replaced with a new sign.

The missing or incomplete bike infrastructure on Lower Market Street (from SFBC):

  • Eastbound
    • Octavia to Valencia Street: Bike lane separated by soft-hit posts and colored green. MISSING
    • 12th Street to Van Ness: Bike lane separated by soft-hit posts and colored green plus “Bike Box” at Van Ness. MISSING
    • 10th to 9th Street: Bike lane separated by soft-hit posts and colored green. NOT COMPLETE
  • Westbound
    • Grove/Hyde (8th) to Larkin/Hayes Street (9th) – Bike lane separated by soft-hit posts and colored green for first half, then colored bike lane for 2nd half (dashed color in dashed area). MISSING.
    • Polk/Fell (10th) to Van Ness Avenue – Bike lane separated by soft-hit posts and colored green first half, then colored bike lane second half. NOT COMPLETE
    • Gough/Haight to Octavia Street – Colored bike lane first half. Bike lane separated by soft-hit posts and colored green second half. MISSING
The "Lane Closed" sign has been removed on Market Street at 10th, and sure enough, drivers see it as an open invitation to violate prohibited right turns.
The "Lane Closed" sign has been removed on Market Street at 10th, and sure enough, drivers see it as an open invitation to ignore mandatory right turns.
  • Schtu

    I would be happy if they would just get the tour buses out of the bike lane in front of the Hotel Whitcomb….

  • Schtu, don’t dream too much and definitely don’t hold your breath. I only ride down Market a couple times a month, but EVERY time I do they are parked there. Also, be nice that the bike lane on Townsend across from Caltrain on 4th would have some enforcement. Seems like it was just a nice want to provide double parking, you’re welcome drivers!

  • tth22

    Market Street is about to undergo an entire redesign as part of the repaving project. As a 4-5 day/week cyclist on Market Street (from Page to Steuart), I would love to see changes sooner rather than later. As a resident who wants to see my tax dollars used efficiently, I’d rather see the City fix quick fix flaws now (like the sign at 10th) and worry about the bigger issues (like lower market and painting new bike lane miles) later.

  • Abe

    I take Valencia-Market every morning all the way to Sansome/Sutter. The green bike lanes are not only nice, they’re necessary. If I may, here are a few comments about Market starting from Valencia.

    The lane crossover at Van Ness:
    I signal my lane change well before the intersection and, about half the time, the car behind me passes me on the left (almost into oncoming traffic) only to swoop right once they see the signs–if they don’t stay in the transit lane. We need signage explaining the right-turn before that intersection.

    Big funky Market St intersections:
    Intersections like 6th & Market have right-turn lanes after the crosswalks (just one lane before) because the intersection is bigger than my apartment. On a bike, I feel like staying to the right conflicts with cars turning right, but I don’t want to barge through the crosswalk to get left. We need bike boxes on the left.

    Market street needs a lot of work. From pavement conditions to traffic flow, it’s basically a free-for-all between Van Ness and Embarcadero. Pilot programs are nice, but since they’re only pilots let’s see some innovation. Put all auto traffic in the right lane and pain the center of the street green in both directions (most bikes ride next to the streetcars anyway–they don’t turn unexpectedly). That way cabs can drop anybody off on the curb and bikes turning right can follow the hordes of pedestrians disembarking from the trolleys.

    Sorry for the rant, but if they’re gonna re-pave Market (which is NEEDED) they should try every layout before they set it in stone.

  • Joel

    They should put bike lanes on the left in the redesign.

  • Abe

    …and if the autos are in the right lane, THEY can deal with those gawdawful tour busses.

  • “and now they can’t pull over to the curb because of the separation”

    Umm… you mean “illegally pull over into the bike lane”? Where is this overzealous enforcement? I’d love to see it.

  • TIMTOWTDI

    Schtu has a valid point that I’m very surprised wasn’t covered in this story. Cyclists are very often not using the bike lane.

    Observations from 8/31, 9/1, 9/13 and 9/29:

  • Bond Yee’s statements epitomizes the kind of idiotic thinking that paralyzes the SFMTA: Fixies are leaving skid marks in the paint, so lets look into another solution, that’s going to take time, so lets do nothing in the meantime. It’s the kind of thing that easily turns from a thoughtful consideration of alternatives into a six month study of bike lane paving standards lasting 5 years with its own CAC and gives an excuse to hold up individual projects.

    Just paint the sections you can in the meantime while you work out the rest of the problems.

  • It would be great if the SFMTA would paint the area between the stop line and the cross walk green, with a bike symbol, as per Scott and Oak. Most cabs and many cars crowd the crosswalk and induce the cyclists to “shoal”, move into the crosswalk, to avoid conflict and crowding with the cars. Unfortunately you get interference with pedestrians crossing then.

    This would be a great feature for the redesigned Market Street, and now is the time to flush out the issues with a trial project.

  • As a daily Market Street cycle commuter, I’m rapidly losing faith in the value and effectiveness of “protected green bike lanes.”

    Tourbuses and scofflaw motorists shut down these bike lanes to bike traffic consistently and compulsively, even at peak rush hours and even with the green paint and soft-hit posts. These blockades effectively eliminate all local bicycle infrastructure and shunt cyclists out into fast motorized traffic, with all the danger that entails.

    In front of Hotel Whitcomb during the morning rush, for example, the eastern half of the green bike lane is usually blockaded by buses, forcing hapless cyclists to exit between soft-hit posts into moving mixed traffic. In many ways it’s safer to avoid that bike lane altogether, and it isn’t the only such stretch.

    Without police enforcement to keep the bike lanes open to bikes, why bother painting the lanes in the first place?

  • The city can’t get an ETA on fixing the 10th St. barrier? Isn’t that the sort of thing a city with a $6,500,000,000 annual budget might be expected to have a couple of in stock?

  • Samir

    Who care’s about the green? — they should be repaving first. I’m tired of all this pressure to repaint the lanes, and then they do, and they still suck to ride on because of all the potholes.

  • Mike

    Unfortunately, this article does not acknowledge the very real obstructions to adding more posts to the street and oversimplifies the question at hand.

    The request to lengthen the separation is not as simple as it sounds. For instance, the addition of safe hits cannot happen where:

    – There is parking along the curb

    – At intersection approaches where right turns are allowed

    – Where loading is allowed along the curb (where it is “No Parking Anytime” instead of “No Stopping Anytime”)

    – There is only the width of a bike lane stripe (ie no striped buffer), as the posts will get hit and start keeling over into the bike lane or travel lane

    There is also the issue of the paratransit drop-off issue. Adding safe hits when the same safe hits are causing concern would likely negatively affect the work between the MTA and the Paratransit Coordinating Committee (PCC) and Accessible Services.

  • turtles

    @Mike: To the last point– how does paratransit drop-off work when there is curb auto parking?

    How do the soft hit posts and green paint get in the way more than a private auto, exactly…?

    Seems like you are saying that bike lanes are an obstruction, while a car in the way is OK…

  • Mike

    The paratransit concern is where there is currently no parking on Market.

  • turtles

    Yes– but what about when paratransit has to drop off where there *is* parking?

    I believe, when there is a mid-block drop-off and there is car parking, Paratransit operators go to the corners, and don’t see that as an inconvenience– why is it any different for a protected bike lane?

    I haven’t heard anyone voice concerns in light of increase of curb-side parking, or recommendations to remove parking for paratransit operations– why should we, in a Transit First city, defer quality bike infrastructure, but not question car infrastructure, when it clearly poses a far greater problem for paratransit? Seems a bit backwards, no?

  • Mike

    It may be there is a solution for the paratransit concern, but to add more safe hits in the middle of the conversation is not conducive to a respectful partnership.

    Besides, that is only one of the considerations. See the rest of the list of my original post.

  • turtles

    No need for a ‘solution’– the problem is one of perception. Sounds like the PCC sees paratransit loading at corners is acceptable to accomodate car parking, but not for bike lanes. Nat Ford controls MTA– he sets the priorities and tone for bikes, cars, and paratransit. Be a leader, Nat.

    As for the rest:
    Parking? Remove the parking; streets should ensure the safety and transport of road users– not store private property.

    Right turns? Drop the posts a little early, like a regular bike lane.

    Loading? Can’t car drivers maneuver around loading trucks just like bike riders? Why do they get the short-end again?

    Replacement of posts? How much can replacing one post cost, every 2-6 months? $20? Doesn’t compare to the safety enhancements. Or, shrink a travel lane and add the buffer.

    These easy solutions aren’t far-fetched– pretty basic solutions to pretty basic problems… All it takes is a ‘can-do attitude’ from Gavin or Nat.

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